Castler Escrow

Tips for Buying and Selling Online Safely

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly stressed the need for digital ways to live and survive. Today we need a digital alternative for shopping, eating, entertainment, conversations (the list is endless), and businesses not in possession of an online or hybrid model are looked on with suspicion.
With the indiscriminate use of digital modes of payment, a lack of awareness about cyber scams has resulted in a commensurate rise in online frauds. And although awareness around cyber crimes is increasing, online buying and selling platforms are riddled with scammers due to a myriad number of reasons.

Top Reasons For Marketplace Scams

1. Stringent Verification Systems – Users on e-marketplaces undergo very basic verification processes. A mere email ID verification is not enough to ascertain the intention of the buyer or seller visiting the marketplace. This leaves the onus of extensive verification of parties on the buyer or seller as the marketplace rids itself of the responsibility to ensure security altogether.
2. Lack of KYC Knowledge – Provided a user feels they ought to carry out some elementary verification of the other party, laymen normally don’t know what they should look out for? How would one know whether an Aadhaar card is authentic, or the Paytm number shared by a seller is legitimate?
3. No Agreement-Based Binding – transactions on e-marketplaces are not agreement-bound. There may be a set of terms and conditions, but these are generic. Different transactions have different clauses that need to be included in terms and conditions to better protect the interests of buyers and sellers.
4. Generalisations – More often than not, users on eMarketplace generalise the possibility of falling prey to fraud. They feel that they are sufficiently aware as consumers when in fact they are not. A report published by Microsoft states that in 2021, 7 out of 10 consumers encountered fraud in India (read more about it here). Few people know exactly how rampant cyber frauds are in the country.

Tips For Buying and Selling Securely Online

1. Shop From A Known Site – Typically, a well-known site would have social media handles (such as a Twitter handle), on which people can share any ill experiences they have on a marketplace. These are often used by scam victims to share their ordeal and request redressal. This also helps amplify the scam. Since the perception of a company’s image is associated with the experiences of different users, a well-known company would attempt to ensure the best possible overall experience for its users, and this includes scam protection to some extent.
2. Regularly Check Your Transaction History – When you buy or sell online, you are required to share your bank account details. In some instances, you connect your eWallet (Paytm, BharatPe, Google Pay etc.) to the marketplace’s transaction portal. When transacting online, you may overlook debit and credit notifications sent to your registered mobile number by your bank. It is a wise practice, therefore, to set a weekly day to check your bank transaction history. This can be done either through an eStatement or by checking your netbanking app / eWallet app.
3. Use Digital Escrow – You can use listing sites and eMarketplaces to find buyers and sellers and enter into an escrow agreement with them for greater security. An escrow account is an agreement-based account in which a neutral third party (the escrow company) holds funds on behalf of the buyer and seller to ensure that all the terms and conditions of a transaction are fully met. A typical escrow transaction involves transfer of funds by buyer to the escrow account, after which the seller delivers the goods to the buyer. The buyer inspects the deliverables and the seller initiates transfer from escrow to his/her own current account according to the terms of agreement.
4. Verify The Buyer Or Seller – Run a primary check and make good use of reviews and ratings provided on the site. Ask as many questions as you feel and clarify all doubts before going ahead with the purchase, especially in high value transactions. You should at least have a phone number and an address to find the other party or connect with them in the event of a mishap.
5. Use Sites With HTTPS Only – Site URLs that begin with HTTPS and not HTTP are safer. These sites also have a small lock in the beginning of the URL, which is an indication that the site is secure and verified.

But Why Aren’t eMarketplaces Safer?

Because business. A traditional marketplace offers security and assurance in the sense that you are able to physically inspect goods before you buy them. You can also negotiate a fair price while buying or selling, and compare the products offered to make an informed choice. Much of the benefit of a physical inspection is hindered while buying and selling online. This is because the primary focus of eMarketplaces is ease, speed, and comfort. They want you to take the leats pains while buying and selling so they create ways for you to do so from your phone anywhere, anytime. In this process, security is compromised by both the marketplace and the consumer. Convenience gains precedence.
Needless to say, however, the tips discussed above are definitely worth your while if you want to avoid the pains of returning, refund process, delays in grievance redressal, and maybe even taking the matter to court. A little extra carefulness doesn’t hurt.

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Read More: How Do Online Marketplaces Work?